Intended for lovers of the arts, this “big think” book engages the dynamic of culture and the creative mind. It unravels inductively, layer by layer, the myth and misconceptions about Gustav Mahler as composer. Early in the 1970s Franz Loschnigg realized that a myth was developing around Mahler’s childhood, education, and persona based on the assumptions of Henri de la Grange. Rather than accepting his work as definitive, the author turned to unique sources – the contemporary writers and poets of fin de siècle Vienna (whose experiences paralleled Mahler’s) and the mid-20th century sciences of cultural anthropology and social psychology, as well as the author’s own familiarity with Vienna.
With a synthesis of disciplines, the illusions of an established narrative around Mahler, upon which decades of research are based, are exposed. Something like a work of investigative reporting, this is an inquiry into the dynamic of artist and culture: Mahler embedded in his culture, deconstructing notions of his childhood, with marvelous stories of ordinary life in imperial Vienna, a surprising critique of the Conservatory’s composition training, and his subsequent breaking free to become a singular creative mind. It is an inquiry that concludes with a simple explanation. It was not fanaticism that motivated Mahler but music per se; it was not about himself. Music is neither therapy nor escape nor religious for Mahler but a higher art, a way to grasp the immensity of life.
"As much as I admire Henri de la Grange's work on Mahler, different points of view are crucial, and Franz Loschnigg's thoughtful analysis promises to be a fantastic addition to the Mahler bookshelf."
Allan Kozinn, former New York Times music critic